Fishing Lake Havasu - The Whole Story

Yeah, that's me, looking all sportsmanlike in a very cool Hobie fishing kayak. One could almost think for a moment I know what I'm doing. You'd be wrong, however.

During the two seasons of my travel TV show for KVCR PBS TV here in southern California we shot several episodes in and around Lake Havasu. It's a fun place to visit, and we always enjoy the shoots there, despite the heat and 16 hour work days.

For our first season, I called up the Lake Havasu City Convention and Visitors Bureau in the middle of the summer. I told the executive director we were interested in filming there, and asked if he could help us arrange logistics. He was astounded anyone would come there in August to do anything. But help us he did, and we had a great time. We shot at the London Bridge Hotel and College Street Brewery and did the walking tour with Jan Kassies - it was a fun-packed half-hour show.

When it came time for our second season, we returned to shoot two episodes, focused around the Havasu Balloon Festival. The CVB suggested we might want to include fishing.

Now, don't get me wrong - I have absolutely nothing against fishing. I think it's a great sport and I certainly love fresh fish for dinner (or even breakfast!). It's just, well... there's this curse.

When I was a boy, my father, who had been an active hunter and fisher prior to the arrival of small children, wanted to share his outdoors prowess with me. He introduced me to fishing - trout farms (popular back then), rivers, lakes, and even deep sea trips. But a trend emerged: I would catch virtually everything and he would get skunked.

I think it became somewhat disheartening for him to take me fishing because deep down in his heart, he knew it was going to happen again. One trip to Vancouver Island, he got skunked so badly that his fellow fishermen even gave him salmon because they felt sorry for him. One invited him to go sailing on his boat and they would do some fishing from there. I wanted to come along, but was left behind. Dad was desperate to catch even one pink, and maybe if I wasn't along, he could.

Nope. He came back empty-handed.

Fast forward to our brilliant family decision to take our three kids on a road trip from Seattle to Alaska. We had three weeks planned - one week up the Alaskan Highway, one week from Haines Junction down to Juneau and back, and one week to return down a combination of the Alaskan and Stewart-Cassiar highways.

Fishing was to be part of the experience, so we loaded up the gear into the van. I researched all the hot lures for salmon fishing in Alaska that year, and though they were expensive, I purchased half a dozen or so that guaranteed I would find myself awash in salmon. Fantasies of piles of smoked salmon filled my head as we headed north with the kids fighting in the back.

But my dreams were dashed as we got to the coast and began fishing. Pinks were everywhere - nice big ones. The runs were packed with hungry salmon, and the kids were catching them right and left (which was really fun to see). But the salmon just laughed at my expensive lures, grabbed them, and tied them to snags, or lodged them under rocks. I was skunked. Repeatedly, until I lost every single lure.

I realized that now that I had taken my father's role, the curse that had reared its ugly head when I was a child, had moved on to me. From now on, I would never catch a thing. The good thing, however, was that the kids would - and there's nothing much more fun than watching the excitement of your kids hauling in a big pink salmon that they caught all on their own. It's much more satisfying than catching your own.

So, with a bit of foresight into how this Havasu fishing experience was going to go down, we went out to the lake with master fisherman Jeff Dean. As expected, I caught snags, I caught my finger, but I did not catch a fish (neither did Jeff that day - he explained it wasn't exactly good timing as fishing wasn't very good during the winter there).

But our show's Director of Photography Spelman Evans Downer, who had been a professional salmon fishing guide in Alaska and who is probably right now sitting on his boat in the Kenai with a cold beer and his line in the water, was immensely amused by my attempts at fishing. While we couldn't fit the full ordeal in the episode, Downer did manage to put this little feature together. Listen carefully - you may be able to hear him chuckling from his perch on the pontoon boat where the cameras were filming.

To me, fishing is only partially about the fish. Of course it's about getting away from our routines in life and getting outdoors, near or on the water, breathing in the fresh air, and putting our attention on things that are honestly important - nature, the sun on our face, the sounds of the water and the light reflecting off it, the time with friends and family together, and the stories that emerge at the end of the day.

Thanks to Downer for chronicling my lame attempts at fishing, and for a nigh on perfect morning out on Lake Havasu.

You can purchase Southwest Stories DVDs for only $4.95.

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